NEW CASTLE – When Marnie Giunta was growing up in the Pittsburgh area, being a high school coach was not her career ambition. She had bigger goals — president, big house, lots of money.
After she graduated from the University of Delaware, her priorities changed. She had two daughters and landed at Padua Academy as the cross country and track and field coach. She has turned the all-girls school into a running powerhouse, winning multiple state championships, including a perfect score in this past fall’s cross country state meet.
On Presidents Day, Giunta was honored by the Delaware Sportswriters and Broadcasters Association with the 2018 Tubby Raymond Coach of the Year Award. She was recognized at the association’s annual luncheon at the Sheraton Wilmington South Hotel.
Giunta told the crowd that she found a family at Padua since she had no relatives in the area.
“They helped me through a lot of trying times. Those girls are what inspire me to get up. Those girls are what inspire me to work hard,” she said.
Giunta’s parents and brother traveled to Wilmington for the luncheon. She also was joined by her two daughters; Padua athletic director Lindsey Brown; director of communications Samantha Scarpone; alumna Megan Smith, a member of her first team at the school; and the seniors who finished one through four at the cross country championship.
Also in attendance were two people who go back to her UD days, Jim Fischer and Patrick Castagno. Fischer was the longtime coach at Delaware who now leads the Ursuline program. Castagno, who won the Raymond Award in 2008, heads up the sport at Tatnall School.
Giunta noted the sacrifices that coaches make to be successful, and she acknowledged her daughters for sharing her with the Padua athletes.
“As high school coaches, we don’t earn a big paycheck. We’re out there because we love the sport. We’re out there because we love the kids,” she said.
In a conversation following the lunch, Giunta said the caliber of athlete is a factor in the program’s success, but there is more to it than that.
“What we do is one, we create a culture out there. We create a team,” she said. “Running is hard work. … But we learn to love it, and we learn to build the spirit within the team. It’s an environment that everybody wants to be a part of.”
That is important when your roster has 80 girls on it and only a certain number can compete in a meet. All of the girls want to be actively participating, and Giunta said she has to make sure they know she values their contributions.
“You have to make hard choices at the end, but the one thing that is unique about the school is the love that these kids have for one another. They help one another achieve success, they push one another to achieve success, and they celebrate one another’s achievements,” she said.
When she walks into the Padua gymnasium, there are banners all over the place marking a state championship for one of her teams. The winning, she said, never gets old and it never gets easier. Each team, she added, has its own personality, and she can look at the banners and come up with a story.
“It’s kind of sentimental in a way,” she said. “All of the relationships you have with these kids, you end up missing them. For four years, they’re your children, and then they move on. I can look at every one of those banners and have some type of story to go with that win. Every one is different, every one is great.”